Changes include a new charge of one euro (about 65p) for seeing a doctor, an increase in the welfare levy payable by pensioners, and spending cuts.
The moves are a key part of President Jacques Chirac’s attempt to trim the budget deficit, which has exceeded EU limits for three years in a row.
The health care system is facing a 13bn-euro deficit (Â£8.5bn) this year.
Earlier this year an official report said the standard of care provided by French doctors was among the best in the world. But it said the system was “badly regulated and badly governed”.
It said French general practitioners prescribe drugs worth a total of about 260,000 euros each year.0